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Let’s get a tan instead of hiding in the dark because we’re afraid of the sun!

I remember sitting in Amy Thurlow’s Intro to PR class several years ago and being really excited to hear the definition of PR because, to be honest, I really had no idea what PR was.  Three years and about a million comm plans later I could spout off that definition in my sleep…actually my husband told me I actually have before (scary). Amy taught us about mutually beneficial relationships that are achieved through two way symmetric communication. I remember being so pumped about two way symmetric communication.  Obviously there was no other way to practice PR.  Over the years though, after actually stepping out into the work world and seeing how people practice PR for real, I think I became a little bit jaded.  In Amy’s last class, Advanced PR Management, we read articles about how Grunig’s model was outdated and idealistic, about how two way symmetric communication was an impossible pipe dream and practitioners needed to just grow up and realize the truth, we were destined for one way asymmetric communication.  I think I believed the author.

What does this have to do with social media, you may be asking.  I have come to realize over the course of this class, that not only is the world changing and evolving but so is our ability and techniques to communicate.  That author obviously never participated in a wiki or followed and commented on a blog.  The truth is, social media is not only changing the way people connect with each other, it’s changing the way we communicate. As we enter the field in a couple of weeks or months or years or whatever it may be, we are entering a new and exciting era of PR.  No longer will one way asymmetric communication be acceptable. People realize that they have something to say and that they have the right to be heard.  This means that organizations are not going to be able to get away with pushing messages without finishing the feedback loop. Everyone has feedback. And everyone will push to finish the loop on their own.  Without this two way symmetric communication, organizations are going to ultimately fail in favor of other organizations who do practice effective communications.  And social media is a massive stepping stone to this future.  That future isn’t so far off either, it’s not like we’re talking about robots and higher level technology here. We’re talking about people learning and utilizing tools that are already available to them to communicate with us, to have their voices heard.  The revoluation has already begun. And I’m psyched about it! Finally my first year enthusiasm is creeping back into my already jaded mind and I’m getting geared up to establish an effective model of communication in my work place. I recognize the importance of following this model, my publics recognize the importance of following this model and sooner or later my organization is going to have to recognize this importance as well.  Social media provides us with an opportunity to transition into this model.  Even if it’s only one step at a time.  From leaving comments to wall posting to blogging to collaborative wikis, these mediums of communication are all about leaving it open for feedback and response.  They are all about giving people the oppportunity to have their voices heard.

While we have been pushing collectively for a huge shift like this within the profession for, at least as long as I can remember, some are terrified of social media and its implications for the future. I think that’s because we’re not explaining it well enough, we’re not putting it into words that they’ll understand.  We’re not saying things like “two way symmetric communication” we’re saying “let’s start a blog and let people comment on it so that everyone can see both the negative and positive.”  That scares people, putting control in someone elses’ hand and having faith in their organizations.  It’s now our job as more informed social media users (thanks DeNel for helping us in that regard) to educate not only our peers but our superiors and our students as well that we are on the dawn of this new horizon and we need to embrace it. Let’s get a tan instead of hiding in the dark because we’re afraid of the sun!

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June 22, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,

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